Views:5 Author:Natalia Publish Time: 2015-12-23 Origin:Vitamins & health supplements guide
Herbal supplements are a type of dietary supplement that contain herbs, either singly or in mixtures. An herb (also called a botanical) is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor, and/or therapeutic properties. A dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. The "dietary ingredients" in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates, and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. They can also be in other forms, such as a bar, but if they are, information on their label must not represent the product as a conventional food or a sole item of a meal or diet. Whatever their form may be, DSHEA places dietary supplements in a special category under the general umbrella of "foods," not drugs, and requires that every supplement be labeled a dietary supplement.
Herbal supplements are products made from plants for use in the treatment and management of certain diseases and medical conditions. Herbal supplements commonly address specific medical concerns, such as the common cold, menopause, or memory loss. All plants, including herbs, naturally synthesize many (sometimes hundreds) of complex chemical compounds as part of their metabolic activities. Many of these compounds are not directly related to the plant's energy production but are toxins synthesized by the plant in order to ward off other plants, herbivores, and plant parasites. Thus, all plant materials contain large numbers of chemical compounds, some of which may exert a desired physiological effect and others which may exert no effect whatever or any number of undesirable effects when consumed by humans. In fact, many herbs contain chemical compounds that act oppositely from the principal active ingredient.
For most herbs, the specific ingredient that causes a therapeutic effect is not known. Whole herbs contain many ingredients, and it is likely that they work together to produce the desired medicinal effect. Many factors affect how effective an herb will be. Many herbs have several active compounds that interact with one another to produce a therapeutic effect. An herbal supplement may contain all of the compounds found in a plant (ratio extract), or just one or two of the isolated compounds that have been successfully extracted (standardized extract). Many plants contain essential oils that are distilled, packaged, and sold unregulated to the public for medicinal purposes. Essential oils include any of a class of volatile oils composed of a mixture of complex hydrocarbons (often terpenes, alkaloids, and other large molecular weight compounds) extracted from a plant. Essential oils give the plant its characteristic aroma and will evaporate quickly from the skin or another surface.
Herbal supplements come in all forms. They may be taken internally as pills or powders, dissolved into tinctures or syrups, or brewed in teas and decoctions. Salves, ointments, shampoos, or poultices may be applied to the skin, scalp, or mucous membranes. For example, fresh ginger root is often found in the produce section of food stores; dried ginger root is sold packaged in tea bags, capsules, or tablets; and liquid preparations made from ginger root are also sold. A particular group of chemicals or a single chemical may be isolated from a botanical and sold as a dietary supplement, usually in tablet or capsule form. An example is phytoestrogens from soy products. A tea, also known as an infusion, is made by adding boiling water to fresh or dried botanicals and steeping them. The tea may be drunk either hot or cold. Some roots, bark, and berries require more forceful treatment to extract their desired ingredients. They are simmered in boiling water for longer periods than teas, making a decoction, which also may be drunk hot or cold. A tincture is made by soaking a botanical in a solution of alcohol and water. Tinctures are sold as liquids and are used for concentrating and preserving a botanical. They are made in different strengths that are expressed as botanical-to-extract ratios (i.e., ratios of the weight of the dried botanical to the volume or weight of the finished product). An extract is made by soaking the botanical in a liquid that removes specific types of chemicals. The liquid can be used as is or evaporated to make a dry extract for use in capsules or tablets.